Review of The Magic Word

barnett_magic-wordThe Magic Word
by Mac Barnett; illus. by Elise Parsley
Primary    Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins    40 pp.
10/16    978-0-06-235484-6    $17.99

Here, the magic word isn’t please, it’s Alakazoomba, and it’s what amped-up Paxton C. Heymeyer says to summon the cookie that his babysitter won’t let him have — without first saying “the magic word.” With his newly discovered magical wish–granting word, Paxton sics a walrus on his babysitter, drops a swimming pool smack dab into the middle of the living room, and summons an elephant for good measure, much to the chagrin of his parents. His friend Rosie also isn’t impressed with his despotic tendencies, and soon abandons the friendship. It takes a while for Paxton to realize the error of his ways, but when he does, he makes amends with Rosie, his parents, and the…well, not quite with the babysitter. Parsley’s digitally created, cartoony art suits Barnett’s characteristically humorous, child-centered text to a T. The illustrator is especially deft at portraying a range of facial expressions — shock, horror, boredom, deviousness, smugness, delight, indifference, and penitence — and her compositions are littered with Paxton’s increasingly outlandish embellishments to his home; both elements bring the story to life visually. A subversive take on the topic of manners that still manages to deliver a message about human decency.

From the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the coordinator of library media services at the San Diego County Office of Education.

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